Parenting advice to reduce kid greed and reopen generosity

“But I’ve got to have a clown and a pony at my birthday. That’s what Tiffany had.”

“Sure, I have six pairs but the more shoes the better!”

“Grandma only gave me fifty dollars for an A!”

Have you noticed that we seem to have a lot of greedy kids these days? If so, you’re not alone. The general public agrees and feels that increased numbers of today’s youth are self-centered, spoiled. greedy and materialistic. Instead of being appreciative of what they have, these critters only seem to want more, more, more. Kids’ ravenous, never-satisfied manner certainly drains a checkbook, but even more dangerous: greediness vaporizes their hearts and souls.

Think about it: if you incessantly prioritize your own wants and desires and put others’ needs and feelings on hold, your life outlook is inevitably affected. More often than not, the message learned is that relationships are far less valuable than self and material possessions acquired. Bottom line: steady dosages of greediness are shattering to our kids’ character. So if your child appears to have a case of the “gimmes”, always puts himself first, and isn’t appreciative what he has, it’s time for a serious makeover. Start today by beginning long-term commitment to inspire of frugality, altruism, and generosity.

Six Steps to Reduce Kid Greed and Reopen Generosity

Step 1. Encourage Experiences That Nurture Strong Values. The first step to turning off kids’ greed is by helping them recognize that having “stuff” does not provide emotional fulfillment. It must be replaced by a central life message: “Who you are is more important than what you have.” Of course, merely reciting such lines won’t change attitudes. Only through personal example and ongoing experiences that emphasize people over things and values over possessions, will kids grasp the concept. And that only comes through your slow, consistent, committed effort. So begin intentionally looking for kinds of experiences that nurture strong values, skills, and relationships. Then encourage your kid to try them, followed each time by helping him to see the value of the experience.

Step 2. Tame the Gimmes, Then Don’t Back Down. The next step to squelching your kid’s greedy ways is simply not to tolerate the attitude. After all, always giving in to your kid’s greedy desires doesn’t do her any favors.  Say no more often to your kid’s whims and consumer demands, and do so without feeling guilty. Of course, if your kid is used to always getting what she wants, your new response will more than likely not popular her. So explain your concerns and the reason for your new policy, and then stick to it. Whenever possible, encourage family members to make gifts and presents instead of buying a lot of expensive stuff. Pass your “no frill policy” onto other immediate caregivers: particularly grandparents, relatives, and your partner. Don’t bribe or reward your child with material gifts just for doing something he should have done anyway.

Step 3. Monitor Media Consumption that Drives Greediness. Television probably wields the greatest influence on fueling kids’ greedy attitudes, and commercials are relentless in trying to get kids to want, want, want, and buy, buy, buy. So limit your child’s exposure to TV commercials by minimizing his TV viewing. Hint: Children’s public television, while not strictly commercial-free, offers quality programs with much less advertising. And when you are watching those commercials with your kid, point out that their purpose is not altruistic. They want your kids’ money. When kids are more tuned into the advertisers’ motives, they are less likely to want every little thing they see.

Step 4. Praise Charitable Deeds. Praise is one of the oldest parenting strategies but research finds only certain kinds really enhance behavior and changes attitudes. Psychologist Joan Grusec research found that those kids were frequently praised by their mothers whenever they displayed generous behavior actually tended to be less generous on a day- to-day basis than other children. Why? More than likely the children weren’t personally committed to the trait-in this case, generosity-that their moms were praising them for. Without their moms’ encouraging words, there was really no reason for them to continue doing generous actions on their own, because their good behavior was guided by social approval and not on their own internal convictions. So do encourage your kid’s charitable actions, just be more conscious of how you praise and what you say so they understand the value of the deed.

Step 5. Encourage Savings and Financial Planning. Studies find that a large portion of today’s kids are greedy when it comes to money: most want to spend rather than save. We need to help kids fight their greedy spending urges and teach them money management skills when they are young. For a young child, buy her a piggy bank to save coins. Make a rule that it must be filled before the money is spent. Older kids should be required to spend their own money on entertainment and nonessential items. Don’t give out loans. Require that a portion of her allowance to go to a charity of her choice. Above all, say no to frivolous, rash buying and don’t give in. It’s a big step to helping curb greediness and learn to be more appreciative.

Step 6. Require Giving to Others. One of the best ways to curb kids’ greedy attitudes is by requiring that they give to others. Begin by having your family choose a family cause. For example, give part of a weekly allowance to needy kids; adopt an orphan through Save the Children; deliver used toys (in good condition) to the fire department, bake cookies for the lonely neighbor next door. Once your family decides on a cause, commit to carrying it out. Or you’re your kids their allowance and require that a portion go to a charity of their choice. That kind of “hands on” giving activity can foster an attitude of giving that will help counter greediness more powerfully than almost anything else.

I will be on the TODAY show tomorrow at 9:30 at ET/PT (Sept 2) doing a segment a curbing kid narcissism — which is a new and troubling trend.

Dr. Michele Borba, Parenting Expert

For more parenting advice follow me on twitter at Michele Borba or on my daily blog, Dr. Michele Borba’s Reality Check. My upcoming TODAY show segments or media appearances are listed on my homepage, Michele Borba.

For specific parenting advice refer to the chapter on ONLY CHILD in my latest book, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries.